Extreme events and future scenarios

As the world has warmed, due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, there has been a marked change in both the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Since 1980, the frequency of storms with winds stronger than 250km has more than tripled.

Globally, economic losses associated with weather-related disasters in 2018 were estimated at US $215 billion. Insurance companies in Australia did not escape these impacts with $1.2 billion in claims paid out following major extreme weather related events. These costs represent a conservative assessment of the associated costs of extreme events to both national and global economies.

Extreme events often do not occur in isolation but can be exemplified by a combination of extreme winds, rainfall amounts and rainfall intensity. These compound extreme, defined as the simultaneous or sequential occurrence of multiple extremes at singular or multiple locations, have the capacity to make the impact of related extreme events far worse than one extreme in isolation.

In this theme, researchers are focused on understanding the primary drivers of changing frequency and intensity of extreme events and exploring links with climate change. Extreme event detection and attribution such as this is a rapidly expanding area of climate science.

ANU researchers are also looking at future scenarios and exploring possible responses, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation.